Monday, December 12, 2005

Darfur Betrayed - The AU Summit in Khartoum (Eric Reeves)

This powerful report from Eric Reeves should be read in full. The news with which it begins is appalling enough ...

Without public objection from any African leader, the next African Union summit is scheduled to be held in Khartoum, January 23-24, 2006. The countries of the AU have evidently concluded that a regime guilty of massive, ongoing genocidal destruction can serve as an appropriate host for the business of Africa. Such a conclusion is wholly remarkable, since presumably the business of Africa includes the vast human catastrophe in Darfur that has been engineered by this very same regime of genocidaires.
The perversity of the AU decision is only heightened if we reflect on the genocidal history of the Khartoum regime over the past fifteen years, directed against various of Sudan’s African populations. This history will likely soon be extended as Khartoum moves closer to genocidal counter-insurgency against the “Eastern Front,” the rebel movement emerging from the terribly marginalized Beja and Rashaida people in Kassala and Red Sea Provinces. [....]
Quite possibly, NIF President Omar el-Bashir will become new president of the AU (the AU presidency rotates to East Africa this year).[....]

What we may be sure of is that without a tremendous international outcry, the AU’s current instinct for expediency ensures that the January summit will indeed be held in Khartoum. Human Rights Watch has led the way in condemning this hideous prospect, speaking out in a press release of November 17, 2005 (“Sudan: A Shameful Place for an African Summit”):
"By allowing Khartoum to host its summit in January, the AU would tarnish its credibility and condone the Sudanese government's complicity in crimes against humanity in Darfur, Human Rights Watch warned today in a letter to African heads of state.” [....]

“Last week [November 23, 2005], the AU also collectively stood by [the government of] Sudan, helping to adopt a ‘no-action’ motion on a UN resolution aimed at condemning the Sudanese government for human rights violations. The no-action motion, which was sponsored by the current AU chair Nigeria, was adopted by 84 votes in favour and 79 against, with 12 abstentions. As a result, Sudan was spared condemnation by the General Assembly’s Third Committee.” (Inter Press Service [dateline: United Nations], November 25, 2005) [....]
Kwame Akonor, director of the African Development Institute (New York), noted in conjunction with the AU action that “earlier, [the AU] mistakenly declared that the killings in the Darfur region did not amount to genocide, though all documented evidence pointed to a systematic campaign to physically destroy particular groups of people”; he noted that with its current action, “the collective AU body brazenly wants to take a resolution condemning the well-documented atrocities in [the Darfur] region off the table.”
Akonor pointedly asked, "does the AU want to be viewed as a protector or accomplice on this issue?"---and warned that “the AU should avoid going down the same ill-fated path as its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), ‘which in 1975 awarded the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, the OAU’s chairmanship, despite his abominable human rights record’" (Inter Press Service, November 25, 2005)[....]

But some of the most alarming passages come in the later sections. For example:
The lack of political courage in demanding full deployment of the APCs is of a piece with AU refusal to demand of Khartoum a meaningful mandate for civilian protection, this in return for higher troops levels. But expediency always sends to the genocidaires in Khartoum the message that there are more deals to be struck, more compromises that will be made, more human lives than can be traded out. As Gill Lusk of the highly authoritative Africa Confidential notes, “all that has happened since the [Khartoum] regime re-engaged with the West is that it has learnt to ‘calibrate finely what it can get away with’” (The Economist, “It’ll do what it can get away with,” December 1, 2005). This is the fundamental truth the AU seems incapable of grasping.
Or perhaps, having grasped this truth, the AU is seeking to end all engagement on Darfur. [....]
Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian aid chief, has also called for an international security force three times the current AU deployment (approximately 6,800), or roughly 20,000 troops (this is a minimum figure using traditional benchmarks for peacekeeping force size). It was Egeland who also first warned of the consequences of humanitarian evacuation in December 2004--a year ago---declaring that such withdrawal might see casualties as great as 100,000 human beings per month. At the time, the UN estimated that there were 2.5 conflict-affected persons in Darfur; the most recent UN Darfur Humanitarian Profile (No. 19, situation as of October 1, 2005; hereafter DHP 19) estimates the figure at 3.5 million---one million more than when Egeland made his estimate a year ago. It is also Egeland who, along with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, has most insistently highlighted the security crisis facing humanitarian operations in Darfur:
"‘My warning is the following: if [insecurity] continues to escalate, if it continues to be so dangerous on humanitarian work, we may not be able to sustain our operation for 2.5 million people requiring lifesaving assistance,’ said Jan Egeland, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. ‘It could all end tomorrow---it's as serious as that.’" (AP, September 28, 2005)
In the more than two months since Egeland offered this extraordinarily forceful warning, conditions within Darfur have deteriorated rapidly and substantially, and humanitarian evacuations are being regularly reported. Subsequent to the UN’s evacuation of “non-essential personnel” from West Darfur (October 12, 2005), there have been a number of other evacuations.[....]

For anyone who genuinely wants to see serious action against the ongoing process of genocidal mass murder in Darfur ("Rwanda in slow motion," as Reeves has aptly termed it), the conclusions seem clear. Neither the African Union nor the UN has either the capacity or the political will to stop the slaughter. It is completely unrealistic to expect the African Union to take on this responsibility without large-scale assistance and massive political pressure from elsewhere. As for the UN, it has to be part of the solution, but the UN framework cannot provide a genuine solution by itself. The UN's humanitarian operations are essential, and they need to be protected militarily and backed up politically. But the UN, as an institution, cannot provide the necessary protection on its own. Even if the UN were capable of moving quickly enough to deploy the required military forces before humanitarian operations collapse--which it is not--it is almost certain that any attempts to do so, or to take any other serious action in Darfur, would be blocked by the Sudanese regime's supporters on the UN Security Council, particularly China.
It remains the case, as the International Crisis Group (ICG) argued in July 2005, that a NATO “bridging force” is the only timely response to the insecurity and violence that may soon precipitate wholesale humanitarian evacuation. The force of 12,000-15,000 troops that ICG proposed may be low in comparison with other recent force estimates of what is required in Darfur: that of Refugees International (20,000-25,000), of the Brookings Institution/Bern University (20,000), or Protect Darfur (UK) (25,000). But if the force were deployed effectively and rapidly (ICG called for an early September 2005 deployment), hundreds of thousands of lives might be saved that will otherwise be imperiled if insecurity forces humanitarian evacuation.
The crucial role of NATO in any possible solution means that once again the major responsibility falls on the US and--alas-on the Europeans. (I say "alas" because, so far, both governments and publics in western Europe have entirely failed to match even the quite inadequate and currently diminishing efforts of the US government or--with the partial exception of Britain--the amount of concern shown by sectors of US public opinion. On these matters, see here and here.) Those of us who are citizens of the US or of western European countries need to press our governments to do something serious to stop this atrocity.

--Jeff Weintraub

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Darfur Betrayed: The African Union Summit in Khartoum (January 2006)

Posted on http://www.sudanreeves.org/ Dec 11, 2005 - 01:41 PM (News)

A symbol of political, military, and moral failure

Eric Reeves
December 11, 2005

Without public objection from any African leader, the next African Union summit is scheduled to be held in Khartoum, January 23-24, 2006. The countries of the AU have evdently concluded that a regime guilty of massive, ongoing genocidal destruction can serve as an appropriate host for the business of Africa. Such a conclusion is wholly remarkable, since presumably the business of Africa includes the vast human catastrophe in Darfur that has been engineered by this very same regime of genocidaires.

The perversity of the AU decision is only heightened if we reflect on the genocidal history of the Khartoum regime over the past fifteen years, directed against various of Sudan’s African populations. This history will likely soon be extended as Khartoum moves closer to genocidal counter-insurgency against the “Eastern Front,” the rebel movement emerging from the terribly marginalized Beja and Rashaida people in Kassala and Red Sea Provinces.

As seasoned Sudan researcher Alex de Waal of Justice Africa(UK) observed of the National Islamic Front regime over a year ago:

“This [present genocide in Darfur]is not the genocidal campaign of a government at the height of its ideological hubris, as the 1992 jihad against the Nuba Mountains was, or coldly determined to secure natural resources, as when it sought to clear the oilfields of southern Sudan of their troublesome inhabitants. This is the routine cruelty of a security cabal, its humanity withered by years in power: it is genocide by force of habit." (“Counter-insurgency on the Cheap,” London Review of Books, August 5, 2004)

Despite the compelling truth of de Waal’s assessment, it guides neither the AU nor the international community in responding to Khartoum’s current behavior in Darfur. For this reason we are forced to contemplate the incomprehensibly shameful prospect of an impending AU summit in Sudan’s capital, with the National Islamic Front (the ruling faction of the National Congress Party) as host. Quite possibly, NIF President Omar el-Bashir will become new president of the AU (the AU presidency rotates to East Africa this year).

It is a profound scandal that not a single African leader has publicly objected to this travesty, even as not a single African country has dared to declare the realities of Darfur to be genocide, despite overwhelming evidence of the ultimate human crime. Tragically, this moral cowardice and political perversity are reflected everywhere in AU policy toward Darfur, a policy that is increasingly defined not merely by inadequacy and incompetence, but by shameful expediency.

To be sure, some countries bear particular responsibility---Nigeria, Egypt, and South Africa most conspicuously. But as all African governments continue to acquiesce in the AU’s accommodation of Khartoum, all must bear responsibility for continuing genocidal destruction in Darfur. Silence---the refusal to object publicly to Khartoum as the site of the January 2006 AU summit---is acquiescence.

[Those wishing to inquire about this shameful acquiescence on the part of African countries may contact embassies in Washington, DC; contact information is available at http://www.embassy.org/embassies. Similar contact information for embassies in other countries is readily available.]

THE CURRENT MILITARY AND POLITICAL POSTURE OF THE AU

As insecurity and targeted violence against humanitarian operations continue to force the evacuation of aid workers, as large-scale violence escalates throughout Darfur, and as many hundreds of thousands of desperately vulnerable civilians lose their humanitarian lifeline, it is important to anatomize the AU failures that currently contribute to Darfur’s catastrophe. Though we may distinguish political from military failures, they are finally obverses of one another, and play out not only in Darfur itself, but in Addis Ababa (AU headquarters), Abuja, Nigeria (site of current Darfur peace negotiations), and UN headquarters in New York.

Most fundamentally, because the AU is without the political courage to demand of Khartoum a meaningful mandate for its observer force in Darfur, the AU mission is prevented by both military weakness and lack of authority from intervening when civilians and humanitarians are attacked or threatened. Indeed, the AU has been able to deploy additional forces to Darfur only because of an ugly quid pro quo, recently reported by, among others, the Brookings Institution in its important assessment of the AU:

“Sudanese officials have adamantly insisted that any increase in troops numbers be allowed only if the mandate does not change.” (Brookings Institution/Bern University, “The Protecting of Two Million Internally Displaced: The Successes and Shortcomings of the African Union in Darfur,” (November 2005, ; page 17)

The lack of AU political courage in confronting Khartoum was also conspicuously on display when the AU allowed the NIF regime, as scheduled, to chair the October 2005 session of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). The Peace and Security Council is the organ within the AU charged with responding to insecurity and violence in Darfur---the very insecurity and violence that Khartoum itself has orchestrated for genocidal purposes. The signal such acquiescence sends, unambiguously, to the NIF is that so long as security in Darfur remains exclusively in the hands of the AU, there will be no real pressure on the
ground to halt the genocide.

In New York, at the UN General Assembly, the AU again betrayed Darfur:

“Last week [November 23, 2005], the AU also collectively stood by [the government of] Sudan, helping to adopt a ‘no-action’ motion on a UN resolution aimed at condemning the Sudanese government for human rights violations. The no-action motion, which was sponsored by the current AU chair Nigeria, was adopted by 84 votes in favour and 79 against, with 12 abstentions. As a result, Sudan was spared condemnation by the General Assembly’s Third Committee.” (Inter Press Service [dateline: United Nations], November 25, 2005)

Britain's UN envoy Emyr Jones Parry had introduced the motion on behalf of the EU, declaring, “there can hardly be a situation of human rights in more urgent need of the world's attention than the situation in Sudan" (Agence France-Presse, November 25, 2005). But speaking after the AU procedural motion passed, killing debate on Darfur, Parry simply “voiced regret that the General Assembly ‘failed to assume its responsibility,’” continuing a dismaying pattern of European understatement.

Amnesty International spoke more forthrightly about this obscene vote:

“Yvonne Terlingen, Amnesty International’s representative at the United Nations, said her organisation ‘deeply regrets that a “no-action motion” on the draft resolution on Sudan was adopted, thereby preventing the Third Committee from considering how to address one of the most serious human rights situations facing the international community today.’ In a statement released here, she said that ‘grave and widespread human rights violations continue in Sudan and sweeping impunity applies to government officials.’”(Inter Press Service, November 25, 2005)

Kwame Akonor, director of the African Development Institute (New York), noted in conjunction with the AU action that “earlier, [the AU] mistakenly declared that the killings in the Darfur region did not amount to genocide, though all documented evidence pointed to a systematic campaign to physically destroy particular groups of people”; he noted that with its current action, “the collective AU body brazenly wants to take a resolution condemning the well-documented atrocities in [the Darfur] region off the table.”

Akonor pointedly asked, "does the AU want to be viewed as a protector or accomplice on this issue?"---and warned that “the AU should avoid going down the same ill-fated path as its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), ‘which in 1975 awarded the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, the OAU’s chairmanship, despite his abominable human rights record’" (Inter Press Service, November 25, 2005)

Even on purely military matters, the AU has repeatedly acquiesced before Khartoum’s obstructionism and deliberate efforts to weaken AU forces on the ground. There have been continual authoritative reports over the past year and a half of the NIF regime denying fuel to AU helicopters and vehicles, thereby preventing or delaying investigations. Khartoum has frequently obstructed the deployment of AU forces, most destructively prior to the annihilating attack on Khor Abeche (South Darfur) in April 2005 (see extended analysis of the Khor Abeche attack by this writer here). Khartoum frequently burdens overwhelmed AU investigators with contrived reports of attacks that never took place. And Khartoum’s militia proxy, the brutal Janjaweed, have also frequently attacked AU forces. Indeed, AU investigators have now concluded that Janjaweed forces were responsible for the first four AU military casualties during an attack on October 8, 2005 (initially, insurgents had been blamed).

We catch an especially revealing example of AU expediency in dealing with Khartoum in noting the circumstances of the highly belated deployment of 105 Canadian armored personnel carriers (APCs) to Darfur. These vehicles held out the prospect of increasing, if marginally, the ability of the AU to project military protective power in Darfur. But they languished in Dakar, Senegal from early August through November, when Khartoum finally acceded to their deployment. What has not been reported, however, is that the APCs have deployed to Darfur without their 12.7mm machine-guns. This weapon is the most significant feature of the vehicles beyond their heavy armor. Only Reuters noted in passing (November 18, 2005) that the APCs arriving in Darfur had no machine-guns; and no news organization has reported that the machine-guns remain in Senegal, with clear indications that they will not be moved to Darfur (where their attachment to the APCs would be a challenging mechanical feat, perhaps beyond the abilities of the mechanics who are on the ground).

Until proven otherwise, the only reasonable inference is that there has been another quiet, expedient deal with Khartoum: the APCs were allowed into Darfur only on the condition that their machine-guns be removed. Perhaps there is back-door pressure on Khartoum to allow for these vehicles to be deployed as they were intended. In the absence of such pressure, successfully applied, the AU will be able to move slowly and safely---but without any offensive firepower comparable to that of the combatants they face. Their impact will be minimal.

The lack of political courage in demanding full deployment of the APCs is of a piece with AU refusal to demand of Khartoum a meaningful mandate for civilian protection, this in return for higher troops levels. But expediency always sends to the genocidaires in Khartoum the message that there are more deals to be struck, more compromises that will be made, more human lives than can be traded out. As Gill Lusk of the highly authoritative Africa Confidential notes, “all that has happened since the [Khartoum] regime re-engaged with the West is that it has learnt to ‘calibrate finely what it can get away with’” (The Economist, “It’ll do what it can get away with,” December 1, 2005). This is the fundamental truth the AU seems incapable of grasping.

Or perhaps, having grasped this truth, the AU is seeking to end all engagement on Darfur. Samantha Power, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “‘A Problem from Hell’: American and the Age of Genocide,” writes in a recent edition of The New Yorker that “soon, this stopgap [AU] mission will fail not only those in need of protection but all the other interested parties as well.” In particular, Power reports that, “the AU is looking for a peg to hang success on so it can walk away gracefully,’ one UN official told me” (The New Yorker, November 28, 2005).

No such exit from Darfur can be either “graceful” or “successful”: on the contrary, the AU’s failure in Darfur will haunt the organization’s credibility, and thus ability, for years to come. The accelerating violence in Darfur, the huge increase in threats to civilians as humanitarian reach continues to constrict, and diplomatic failure in Abuja---all make a mockery of any notion of “success.” And for the AU even to contemplate “walking away” at the moment of Darfur’s greatest need is the very embodiment of moral and political cowardice, of a conspicuous lack of “grace under pressure."

What we may be sure of is that without a tremendous international outcry, the AU’s current instinct for expediency ensures that the January summit will indeed be held in Khartoum. Human Rights Watch has led the way in condemning this hideous prospect, speaking out in a press release of November 17, 2005 (“Sudan: A Shameful Place for an African Summit”):

"By allowing Khartoum to host its summit in January, the AU would tarnish its credibility and condone the Sudanese government's complicity in crimes against humanity in Darfur, Human Rights Watch warned today in a letter to African heads of state.”

"‘The AU's efforts in Darfur have been met with constant obstruction by a government that refuses to change its abusive policies,’ said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. ‘The AU should not reward the sponsors of crimes against humanity with the honor of hosting the AU summit or ascending to its presidency.’”

"‘How can the AU be seen as a credible mediator in Darfur if one of the warring parties hosts its summit and becomes the head of the organization as well?’ asked Takirambudde. ‘It's not too late for the AU to hold its summit elsewhere or for African leaders to encourage a better candidate to run for the presidency.’"

It is indeed “not too late for the AU to hold its summit elsewhere.” But the AU leadership, especially that of Nigeria, Egypt, and South Africa, must be pressured by other African nations---and there must be much more political courage and moral determination than is currently in evidence.

The AU Peace and Security Council deserves long-term, vigorous international support and encouragement: it certainly represents the future of peacekeeping and peacemaking in Africa. Capacity must be developed as rapidly as is practicable. But the various failures of the AU in Darfur will inevitably define donor attitudes toward the organization for the near- to mid-term, precisely when AU capacity must be developed for long-term challenges.

The EU is in the process of seriously reconsidering the scale of further assistance to the AU mission in Darfur, this on top of the irresponsibly ham-fisted removal by the US Congress of $50 million for current AU operations. It is a measure of how poorly the AU has performed that this funding crisis coincides with the moment of most desperate need on the ground in Darfur. The enormous importance of future AU peacekeeping missions in Africa argues urgently for political courage now on the part of the organization in confronting Khartoum’s genocidaires.

THE UN OPTION FOR DARFUR

If, as the UN official speaking with Samantha Power says, “the AU is looking for a peg to hang success on so it can walk away gracefully [from Darfur],” this raises the question of what will succeed the AU in providing whatever security the civilians of Darfur are to receive---and on what time-frame. “Blue-hatting” the Darfur mission--bringing remaining AU troops under UN auspices, with substantial augmentation by UN peacekeeping forces and resources--has recently received a good deal of attention in discussions of security for Darfur; it is important, however, to bear in mind not simply the difficulty of mounting such a UN operation, but the inevitably dilatory nature of deployment.

Here our best guide is the painfully slow deployment of UN peacekeepers in southern Sudan. Though the first anniversary of the “Comprehensive Peace Agreement” between Khartoum and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement is less than a month away, the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has deployed less than half of the 10,700 personnel called for in the mission that was formally approved by the UN Security Council in March 2005. Though UN DPKO had at least two years to prepare for this mission, the planning was poor and the force ill-conceived; the mission is also hugely and inefficiently expensive, costing over $1 billion a year (the AU mission in Darfur, by contrast, with extremely intense and threatening violence, has a budget of just over $300 million). Many of the areas in southern Sudan most urgently in need of surveillance have few or no observers.

How long is the international community prepared to wait while the UN moves through the various stages of an eventual deployment to Darfur? Reuters, citing UN officials in New York, reports that “it might take until September [2006] to deploy such an expanded mission” (Reuters, December 4, 2005). It is certainly highly doubtful that a meaningful UN mission could assembled, deployed, and incorporated with AU forces in less than half a year. And this assumes that the AU would accept such incorporation, which is far from certain despite the evident desire to exit Darfur “gracefully.” Expediency and issues of pride are engaged in a ghastly two-step.

UN deployment of peacekeepers also presumes that the UN Security Council will pass an enabling resolution, with a Chapter VII (peacemaking, not merely peacekeeping) mandate. There are good reasons to believe that veto-wielding China would either delay or obstruct entirely any such resolution, particularly the Chapter VII authority that is so urgently required amidst the high levels of violence that prevail throughout Darfur.

Further, Khartoum’s genocidaires have already made clear their opposition to such a force: while Darfur’s rebels have welcomed a UN takeover of the AU mission, Khartoum’s delegates at the Abuja peace talks “reacted negatively to the possibility” (Reuters, December 5, 2005). Reuters went on to report:

“The Sudanese government has in the past rejected any proposal for the UN to deploy in Darfur and Amin Hassan Omar, a government spokesman at the talks, said it preferred the AU because they were Africans and understood the culture of Darfur.”

It would take considerable effort to unpack all the mendacity in this genocidal “preference,” but it certainly reveals that AU weakness, expediency, and acquiescence have come to be much appreciated in Khartoum.

Even if all political obstacles could be overcome, even if the cause of civilian and humanitarian security in Darfur should rise to the level of appropriate urgency within the UN, it is indeed difficult to see how an effective UN peacekeeping force--with an appropriate mandate and resources--could be in place before September 2006. And opposition from the AU, China, and Khartoum may be sufficient to delay even this dilatory time-frame by months.

REALISM

It remains the case, as the International Crisis Group (ICG) argued in July 2005, that a NATO “bridging force” is the only timely response to the insecurity and violence that may soon precipitate wholesale humanitarian evacuation. The force of 12,000-15,000 troops that ICG proposed may be low in comparison with other recent force estimates of what is required in Darfur: that of Refugees International (20,000-25,000), of the Brookings Institution/Bern University (20,000), or Protect Darfur (UK) (25,000). But if the force were deployed effectively and rapidly (ICG called for an early September 2005 deployment), hundreds of thousands of lives might be saved that will otherwise be imperiled if insecurity forces humanitarian evacuation.

Jan Egeland, UN humanitarian aid chief, has also called for an international security force three times the current AU deployment (approximately 6,800), or roughly 20,000 troops (this is a minimum figure using traditional benchmarks for peacekeeping force size). It was Egeland who also first warned of the consequences of humanitarian evacuation in December 2004--a year ago---declaring that such withdrawal might see casualties as great as 100,000 human beings per month. At the time, the UN estimated that there were 2.5 conflict-affected persons in Darfur; the most recent UN Darfur Humanitarian Profile (No. 19, situation as of October 1, 2005; hereafter DHP 19) estimates the figure at 3.5 million---one million more than when Egeland made his estimate a year ago. It is also Egeland who, along with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, has most insistently highlighted the security crisis facing humanitarian operations in Darfur:

"‘My warning is the following: if [insecurity] continues to escalate, if it continues to be so dangerous on humanitarian work, we may not be able to sustain our operation for 2.5 million people requiring lifesaving assistance,’ said Jan Egeland, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. ‘It could all end tomorrow---it's as serious as that.’" (AP, September 28, 2005)

In the more than two months since Egeland offered this extraordinarily forceful warning, conditions within Darfur have deteriorated rapidly and substantially, and humanitarian evacuations are being regularly reported. Subsequent to the UN’s evacuation of “non-essential personnel” from West Darfur (October 12, 2005), there have been a number of other evacuations. UN Spokeswoman Radhia Achouri spoke very recently of Janjaweed militia forces attacking in West Darfur State:

“The UN has grounded some aid flights and evacuated workers in parts of West Darfur State because of the escalating violence crippling humanitarian efforts in Sudan’s vast west, UN officials said on Friday [December 9, 2005]. Militia attacks have forced aid workers to evacuate, closed off roads, and sent 7,000 Darfuris from their homes in South Darfur and West Darfur, [Achouri] said. ‘Our humanitarian efforts are being destroyed on the ground.’” (Reuters, December 9, 2005)

From the same Reuters dispatch:

“Meanwhile, all roads out of the West Darfur state capital el-Geneina have been closed to UN traffic. Now many aid workers have been temporarily evacuated from two main areas of operations and a rebel renegade group is threatening helicopters, prompting the UN to ground its aircraft over their areas, UN officials said.”

"‘Humanitarian access is worse than ever,’ said UN worker Matthew Ryder in el-Geneina. He said most non-governmental organisations had withdrawn from the area of Masteri, south of the town and from the Kulbus and Jabel Moun areas where rebels and the government recently clashed.” (Reuters, December 9, 2005)

The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reports:

“On 5 December, [2005] 13 international NGO staff members in West Darfur were relocated with an African Union escort from Silea to the region’s capital, Geneina, due to insecurity in the area. Insecurity also forced the AU to airlift three international NGO staff from Kulbus to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State. Some local personnel remained behind to provide essential services.” (UN IRIN, December 8, 2005)

Refugees International reported in its recent assessment of the AU (“No Power to Protect: The African Union Mission in Sudan,” November 2005):

“According to the US Agency for International Development, due to rising insecurity ... on September 25, 2005 three NGOs evacuated their staff from Shangil Tobayi, North Darfur, reportedly leaving the town without an international humanitarian presence. A week earlier Refugees International had witnessed the site director for one of the NGOs sending three of her staff home to Europe.” (page 2)

A remnant of the National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD) rebel faction (a splinter group of the Justice and Equality Movement [JEM], most of whose members have evidently rejoined JEM) has taken particularly aggressive and threatening action in the Jebel Moon area of West Darfur, with devastating effect on humanitarian presence in the region:

“[These activities by the NMRD have] led to the ICRC’s temporary departure and de facto suspension of activities in the Sulea/Kulbus/Jebel Moon area. It has also led to the UN deciding not to fly into the area for the time being, which might seriously curtail humanitarian activities to Internally Displaced Persons in the immediate future. [ ] Agencies are following the outcome of the ICRC discussions very closely as this will have an impact on operations in the area.” (UN High Commission for Refugees Situation Update #41, December 1, 2005)

DHP 19 indicates that only 70% of the enormous conflict-affected population of 3.5 million is currently accessible by the UN. This represents the lowest percentage of access since April 2004, before the large-scale ramping up of humanitarian operations in mid-summer 2004. Since October 1, 2005--the terminus date for DHP 19 data--humanitarian access has been significantly reduced: as of December 11, 2005 the UN may have access to less than 60% of Darfur’s conflict-affected population. In other words, as many as 1.5 million conflict-affected women, children, and men may now be beyond humanitarian reach.

The current violence in Darfur, especially large-scale violence, conspicuously involves coordinated attacks by Khartoum’s regular forces and its Janjaweed militia allies, attacks that are again aimed at the means of livelihood of African tribal populations:

“On Saturday [December 3, 2005], Sudanese Armed Forces and militia reportedly jointly attacked the villages of Hemmeda, Um Boru and Koka in the Um Nkunya area, approximately 40 km northeast of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, the UN Mission in Sudan reported. The fighting resulted in an unknown number of civilian casualties and displaced about 7,000 people.”

“According to [UN] reports, the attack on Saturday had been launched against the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) in the area. In apparent retaliation the following day, the SLM/A attacked Donkey Dereisa, 60 km south of Nyala. Another attack occurred in West Darfur on Tuesday [December 6, 2005] when Arab militia raided the town of Congo Harasa. They destroyed all the wells that had been constructed by the humanitarian workers to provide water to the local population.” (UN IRIN, December 8, 2005)

Additional victims of the intense fighting in the Gereida area south of Nyala, involving various armed groups, have also been reported by IRIN:

“Some 5,000 people have sought refuge in Gereida town over the past week, following violent clashes in the conflict-torn western Sudanese state of South Darfur that had already displaced 15,000, the international NGO Oxfam reported.”

“The African Union listed about 26 villages around Gereida that had been looted and allegedly burned to the ground during the attacks and confirmed that hundreds of people were killed and many were missing.” (UN IRIN, December 1, 2005)

In addition to, and often accompanying, violence is very significant crop destruction of this year’s much reduced planting season:

“Thousands of Sudanese continue being displaced by Darfur's raging conflict and wide-scale crop destruction is threatening food production in the volatile western region, the United Nations said Thursday [December 1, 2005]. An expected 80 percent increase in agricultural output [from the small fractional harvest of 2004] ‘may well be largely offset by the widespread phenomenon of crops being deliberately destroyed by nomadic groups and their livestock,’ a UN report said.” (AP, December 1, 2005)

The nature of some violence is also changing in ominous ways, almost certainly reflecting efforts by Khartoum to diminish its visible responsibility for deteriorating security:

“The crisis in Darfur has sharply deteriorated over the last few months because of an increase in violence, a senior UN official said yesterday. Craig Sanders, head of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Sudan and Chad, said: ‘The severity of the attacks and their frequency is increasing and we are concerned how things are going to shake out.’ He told a press conference in London after meeting British officials that the violence ‘is being done with much greater subtlety and sophistication than we have seen before.’” (The Guardian [UK], December 1, 2005)

This “subtlety and sophistication” comport all too well with a key observation in the September 2005 report to the UN Security Council by Juan Mendez, special advisor on the prevention of genocide:

“Though [Sudan] government officials attribute these attacks [on humanitarian convoys] to banditry and common crime, their coordinated planning and apparent use of intelligence to prepare the attacks suggest a degree of organization and fire-power that is consistent with continued Janjaweed activity, albeit under a different name.” (Paragraph 19)

Sometimes Khartoum’s violence against humanitarian aid workers is neither “subtle” nor “sophisticated”: the UN’s November 21, 2005 “sit rep” on Darfur reports that “two [international aid organization] national staff members were threatened by Government of Sudan military in Abu Shouk market last week. Guns were held to their heads and 50,000 SDD was demanded from them.”

“An [international aid organization] convoy consisting of two vehicles carrying five international staff and two national staff was ambushed at Bindizi village [West Darfur] by unknown armed elements on horses, dressed in [Sudan government military] uniforms.”

All this lies behind what Kofi Annan described in his November report to the UN Security Council as “the looming threat of complete lawlessness and anarchy”---a threat that directly imperils all humanitarian operations in Darfur and thus all those who are now utterly dependent upon humanitarian assistance for their very survival.

BETRAYAL

The African Union summit in Khartoum, if it proceeds as scheduled, will come as human mortality in Darfur surges in the wake of accelerating violence and the increasingly likely wholesale collapse of geographically extended humanitarian relief efforts. More than 400,000 people will have perished in the genocide. Escalating military tensions between Sudan and Chad form a highly threatening regional backdrop to peace negotiations in Abuja that have stalemated without yet testing Khartoum’s hardened diplomats in a serious way.

The AU must decide whether or not it is willing to confront a regime responsible for the ongoing, targeted destruction of African tribal groups in Darfur. It must decide whether it will continue to substitute bravado---

“We have not asked for anybody outside of the African continent to deploy troops in Darfur. It’s an African responsibility and we can do it.” (Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa)

---for real civilian protection.

The African Union must decide whether it is the AU or the OAU.

All signs for Darfur, and the peacekeeping future of the AU, look grim indeed.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA
01063413-585-3326
ereeves@smith.edu
http://www.sudanreeves.org/

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